Shelf Lighting Tips

By Design Director, Sally Storey

Think of shelves as a window in the room or even like a wall light. Shelf lighting can add an indirect softness and at the same time create a feature in the room.

Recessed downlights can be used but do not give the same depth or level of interest. With the development of LEDs, the options to create different shelf lighting effects due to the low heat and size offers the designer and home owner a wonderful tool.

1. Front Light
The simplest option is to front light your shelves with a Contour LED strip.  This requires a simple down stand on the shelf.  Sometimes the can be bare tape on a heat sink whilst if visible or reflective a metal extrusion may be the best solution. The choice depends on the detail and finishing of the shelf. This solution provides a very even light.

Front lighting on John Cullen Lighting shelves

2. Back Light
A different concept would be to back light the shelf by using a Contour LED strip, either with a gap at the back of the shelf or a small upstand. This effect adds depth and is particularly successful when there is a combination of objects, particularly glass and books as the light shines through.

Back Lighting on John Cullen Lighting shelves

The colour of the strip is key to having a successful result and to create a warm environment in the home.  I feel the Contour HD24 is best whereas in a kitchen the cooler Contour HD27 may be more appropriate.

3. Individual Shelf Light
Consider small miniature downlights to create more interesting shelf lighting effects and highlight a favourite object.  The Eyelid Under Cupboard light could be perfect as the small eyelid provides glare control and a wide beam of light.

Eyelid Under Cupboard Light

Another miniature downlight is the Luccini which is smaller, more specific and picks out objects like jewels with extra sparkle, particular successful with glass objects.

4. Feature Light
For a total different approach consider the Footlight, this stands at the front of the shelf casting light backwards across an object and the patterns of light and shade cast on the back wall. It can almost be like small night lights positioned on a shelf.

John Cullen Lighting Footlight

5. Glass Shelf Lighting
Glass shelves need to be considered differently, you can light through the glass shelves using small miniature downlights such as the Fazer.

Fazer downlight on shelf lighting

Another option for shelf lighting would be to edge light the shelf with an Contour LED strip behind meaning that you would need to frost the front edge so that you don’t see the light source.

See our full range of Shelf and Cove Lights here.